A Newport favorite comes to Wayland Square
If you’ve ever been to Pasta Beach in Newport, you know it’s worth the drive. The pizza is wood-fired, the pasta is always al dente and the decor is perfectly inviting. Lucky for us, Pasta Beach recently opened a location in Wayland Square, which is great for those unable – or unwilling – to drive more than 20 minutes for a darn good meal. With a heavy nod to a more traditional Italian menu as opposed to Italian-American fare (that means no spaghetti and meatballs), the food is lighter, healthier and just plain delicious.
195 Wayland Avenue
The traditional dumpling gets a New England twist in Downcity
In a town that drools over every new restaurant, a long-awaited addition is finally here: Tom’s BaoBao. Tom’s is taking the space next to The Malted Barley with a focus on bao. Bao (bao bao or baozi) is a Chinese steamed bun that is similar in shape to a dumpling, but much larger in size with a softer, fluffier dough. There are tons of varieties of bao in China. Tom’s is making a variation popular in Shanghai.
“Our two most traditional bao offerings are the Vegetarian and Juicy Pork Bao,” says CEO and founder Tom Tong. “The Vegetarian is made with bok choy, shitake mushrooms and fried tofu, and is very popular in China for breakfast and lunch. The Juicy Pork is a delicacy in China, and our most popular item. Either of these flavors would make a great introduction to the world of bao.” They’ve even made a special bao to commemorate their arrival in New England: the seasonal Lobster Bao.
But when it comes down to it, it’s all about the dough, and he keeps his very simple: Chinese winter wheat, a bit of whole grain, yeast and water. For Tom, the texture is unlike any other dough you can find in America. “It is incredibly soft and stretchy, and springs back into place when pushed against,” he says. “In order to pack as much goodness into each bao as we can, we need a dough that can be worked by the skilled hands of our baoists and a dough that stands up to the steaming process. Inferior dough equals leaky bao, and nobody wants that.” Most of all, Tom and his team are excited to introduce diners to something new and hope that they will come in, ask questions and eat it until they are as crazy about bao as they are.
326 Westminster Street
Providence finally gets a specialty donut shop on Ives Street
They’re best when they’re fresh off the fryer. Warm, doughy, ready to be glazed. Once glazed and set, that first bite is euphoric, a rarity to experience. I’m talking about donuts, and there is nary a person who can pass them up. Sure we have Dunkies, but Providence has been missing a dedicated donut shop, until now.
PVDonuts is the brainchild of Lori and Paul Kettelle, whose hobby was to try and find the best donut shops around. “In Maine we always went to Holy Donut, whose gluten-free donuts are always better,” Lori explains. “Whenever we came back to RI we wondered why there wasn’t something like that here. So I started playing around with recipes in the kitchen and gave them to friends. Paul said that PVDonuts would be a perfect name.” And the rest is history.
PVDonuts started at culinary incubator Hope & Main and Warren, but quickly outgrew it – like, after a month. The first weekend Lori and her very loyal friends (read: folks with access to fresh donuts) made 11 dozen donuts for two shops. The second weekend they made 24 dozen donuts on Saturday alone, which pretty much tripled their wholesale accounts. Knowing that the fryer at Hope & Main could only fry nine donuts at a time, Lori had to expand, and quickly.
“I used to work with Jen at Sin, and she was looking for someone to rent retail space,” Lori explains. “It was perfect timing. For our opening weekend, our goal [was] to do between 7,000-10,000 donuts. Fourteen hundred people [had] RSVP’d, and 4,000 people [were] interested in the event.” She soon outgrew that space on Allens Avenue in Providence, too, and has now moved PVDonuts to Ives Street on the East Side.
But let’s talk flavors. This writer’s favorite is hands down the brown butter glazed topped with candied pecans. The brown butter glaze just hits all the right notes, a little salty and a little sweet, and the candied pecans bring in a rustic flavor that just begs to be had with a cup of coffee. Look forward to other varieties like peanut butter and jelly, key lime curd with meringue on top, maple glaze topped with bacon, strawberry glaze, vanilla bean glaze with toasted coconut, I could go on. She’s even working on gluten-free and vegan varieties.
When asked about her favorite flavor, Lori said that although she is still figuring out the recipe it is a chocolate donut with a sea salt glaze. For the love of all things holy I seriously hope she figures out that recipe so I can eat it ASAP. In the meantime, contentment will have to lie in her 24-hour raised brioche dough. With hardly any sugar, and lots of butter, it allows the flavors of the toppings to shine through. If only there were some coffee to complement the donuts. Don’t worry, Lori is offering cold brew and regular coffee. I can’t wait to see what other delectable combinations she dreams up next.
79 Ives Street, Providence